"In 2008, the Pew Hispanic Center, calculated that there might be 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the United States. That is about 4% of the population. The state with the greatest proportion was Arizona, with 7.9%. These numbers, like any Census of a large population, are necessarily inaccurate, but they are the best we’ve got. With the recession, most experts agree that the population of illegal residents has probably declined since 2008.
If you read my last blog posting, you may not be surprised to know that poll respondents have a completely distorted estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in their state. The average response when asked what percent of their state is illegal immigrants was just over 17% - that is, the average American thinks almost 1 in 5 people are illegal immigrants.
One final note – Americans of all political ideologies show some tendency to, not only over-estimate the number of illegal immigrants, but also to have trouble separating Hispanics generally from illegal immigrants particularly. Let me explain: in addition to asking about the percentage of illegal immigrants in their state, I also asked what percentage of their state is Hispanic. I think it is safe to assume that when most people hear the term “illegal immigrant”, they almost exclusively assume that the illegal immigrant is from Latin America - meaning that when they say 17% of their state is illegal immigrants that they are saying that at least 17% of their state is Hispanic. If I am correct about this, a rough way to estimate the percentage of Hispanics that a respondent thinks are illegal immigrants is simply to compare their answer to the questions about the percentage Hispanic to their answer about the percentage illegal immigrants. Among all white respondents, the average answer to the question about illegal immigrants was almost 2/3rds the size of their answer to the question about Hispanics – meaning, if they thought about it – they are likely indicating that they think that 2/3rds of all Hispanics in their state are illegal immigrants. Among “very conservative” whites the answer to the Hispanic question was, astoundingly, almost 3/4ths the size of the answer about illegal immigrants – implying that 3/4ths of Hispanics are illegal immigrants."
Ryan D. Enos
This is related, I think to the narritives of President Obama as a radical, Muslim, illegitimate usurper, etc. It's a gross simplification to say that all opposition to Obama or anti-immigration hysteria is based on direct and conscious racism. (It is also a convenient strawman for the right, who can dismiss critiques of their more absurd conspiracy theories by saying something akin to 'liberals always shout racism when they can't win an argument.) Old-school, overt, cross burning racism has become taboo in almost every segment of American society. But I do think that this distorted view of reality, in regards to both the president and the Hispanic wave, has a good deal to do with latant racism. It's a half-conscious feeling among the White middle class that their control of society is simply the natural order of things; that a world where politicians focus on pandering for their votes, popular culture focuses on catering to their sensibilities, and corporations focus on marketing for their dollars; is nothing more than a world running on its proper equilibrium.
The desire to believe that many if not most Hispanic newcomers are 'illegal', the fact that the sort of banal ethnic-identity markers that should be taken as givens, (Latinos speaking Spanish among themselves, old country flags on truck windows) are seen as signs of their illegality, is clearly meant to delegitimatize the physical reality of their being here. Just as narratives of President Obama as a mad Leftist hellbent on corrupting America's natural state are also obvious attempts to deligitimize his presence in the White House.
For many in the White middle and upper classes, the idea that their loss of cultural and demographic dominance could possibly be benign, spontaneous, and organic is simply inconceivable. This is especially true in rural and suburban areas where they have previously been not only culturally dominant but culturally uniform. The mere fact that we are losing this control is proof enough that there are malevolent forces behind this loss.